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Flat Tops junk removal

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
John Gardner/Post IndependentMembers of the Hi Country 4 Wheeling Club load up the front end of a 1980s Pontiac Bonneville onto the flatbed of a Forest Service truck on Saturday, Sept. 13. The vehicle was abandoned near Adam's Lake on the Flat Tops north of New Castle for three years. Members from left include: Ken White, Russell Melton, Josh White, Greg Noss, Bryan Dorr, and Don Cutright.
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FLAT TOPS, Colorado ” Greg Noss gulped water from his thermal bottle as sweat descended from his forehead in the late afternoon sun. He extended his head, scanning the horizon, as the muffled grind of motorcycles in the distance drew closer.

Four on trail bikes approached and cut their engines, stopping just beside Noss and his ragged crew from the Hi Country 4 Wheelers Club. It was quiet for a moment as Noss stepped up to the lead man.

The man stared through his full-faced helmet and goggles at the dashboard of an early 1980s model Pontiac Bonneville heavily chained to the flatbed of a mint-green U.S. Forest Service truck.



Unsure of its familiarity, he recognized the rusted-blue beast.

“Is this the car that was over there?” the man questioned as he pointed toward Adam’s Lake, nearly five miles down the choppy mountain road to the west.



“Yep,” Noss responded, proudly.

“How’d it get over here?” the man asked.

“Well,” Noss started, “We drug it here with six Jeeps and a Toyota.”



The man’s eyebrows rose as he pondered the logistics of towing the broken vehicle up the rugged road.

The first removal attempt was nearly a month earlier, in mid-August, when Noss and another group including other members of the four wheeling club attempted to drag the Bonneville from its High Country grave.

Looking at the car’s remains loaded in four different trucks as if it were a wild beast hunted and quartered, the man offered his gratitude for their efforts.

“It’s a good thing you’ve done,” he said.

The group was quiet. Not familiar with recognition of their work.

The battle on Blair Mountain

The small cavalry from Hi Country 4 Wheelers Club met at the New Castle City Market at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 13. Noss, the man in charge of the mission, was accompanied by Don Cutright, Ken White and his son Josh White, Mike Guyon, and Dee McNenny. Bryan Dorr, met up with his buddies on the muddy trail an hour or so later.

“You never know who’s going to show up,” Noss said. “Some come to help and some come just for the ride.”

Forest Service volunteer from the Rifle Ranger District, Kurt Hill, met the crew on the mountain. He wasn’t going to let them have all the fun.

“We’ve worked on a couple of projects with the club before. That’s what this bad boy here is,” Hill said, pointing to the mangled Bonneville. “This is a rare case. Adams Lake is where we found this one. They drug it all the way up here, it was totally amazing, but we gave up right here.”

The Bonneville had won the first battle and was left on the east side of Blair Mountain. The crew fashioned the wreckage with wheels and tires in an attempt to remove.

But the feisty Bonneville still had some fight left in it.

“The wheels kept breaking off,” said Don Cutright. “It was quite interesting, we had six vehicles hooked to it trying to dead-drag it up this hill.”

They only made it about five-miles in eight hours, breaking a 30,000-pound tow rope and snapping a tow-hook on Noss’ Jeep in two, before the group called it quits. But Noss and company would return. This time with some heavy machinery.

No quit in this group

Noss was all business with a 12-inch gas-powered Husqvarna saw that cut through the mangled-steel like a medium-cooked New York strip steak.

“I haven’t had to do this for a while, cut the vehicle into pieces,” he said. “Most of the time you can drag them out.”

After spending a full day wrestling the faded-blue beast a month before, the four-wheel gang didn’t travel three hours deep into the backcountry to be defeated again. They were seeking revenge.

It took just over three hours for them to strip the car down. And even though Noss seemed to enjoy the operation, like a joyous hunter gutting his prey, he would have preferred not having to do it in the first place.

“I don’t enjoy it,” Noss explained while Cutright filled-in on chopping duty.

“I don’t enjoy it at all. I wish people would take their cars to the salvage yard like they should. Heck, they could leave it on the side of the highway, but they don’t have to bring it up here.”

Typically, salvage yards like Creative Auto Recyclers and Salvage (C.A.R.S.) near Rifle, won’t accept vehicles without a title. However, in cases like this, it probably wasn’t not having the title that led to this car being abandoned deep in the Flat Tops backcountry northwest of New Castle. According to Hill, the Forest Service tracked down the owner of the Bonneville. It was registered to an Oklahoma resident and it wore Utah plates.

“This was a one way trip for sure,” Cutright said. He guesses that the people who abandoned the car was probably influenced by alcohol.

“That’s what helped them get it all the way up here,” he added.

Mission accomplished

The group felt good about how the day played out. By 4 p.m. they had accomplished part one of the day’s objective: Cut up the car and pack it into the beds of four trucks. Phase two was to haul the rusted remains out of the Flat Tops to its final resting area at C.A.R.S.

On a remote stretch of Forest Service Road 601, the group basked in the afternoon sun. Their work behind them, they could finally enjoy a little four-wheeling in the mud.

“It’s unbelievable that they would help the Forest Service out,” Hill said. “You don’t even realize the amount of money it would cost the Forest Service to get this out of here, once you add up the man hours and stuff, it’s huge.”

When all was said and done, the group was happy to do it. And being that it was the sixth abandoned vehicle they’ve removed this year from areas all over the backcountry in Garfield County, it probably won’t be their last.

“It’s mainly just keeping up the roads so we can keep them open,” Cutright said. “If no one comes up and does the maintenance, the roads get in bad shape and then they want to close it. Things like this are an eyesore. You don’t want to leave something like that up here.”

The Bonneville may have won the first battle, but the Hi Country 4 Wheelers had won the war.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114 or by e-mail at jgardner@postindependent.com


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